Disappointed in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections last year, when it could not win a single seat and got just 0.49% of the total votes, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has received a shot in the arm in the recent urban local body elections in the state.
Five candidates of the AIMIM were elected Nagar Palika Parishad or Nagar Panchayat chairpersons, 75 of its councillors won in municipal corporations, and in its most impressive performance, its mayoral candidate in Meerut came second after the BJP nominee, finishing ahead of the Samajwadi Party’s Seema Pradhan.
In the 2022 Assembly polls, almost the entire Muslim vote had gone to the SP. Thirty-four Muslim candidates fielded by the SP and its allies had won.
Among the five Nagar Palika Parishad chairperson posts won by the AIMIM was Sambhal, where its candidate Asiya Musheer Khan won by nearly 22,000 votes. In second place was Independent candidate Farhana, followed by Parul Sharma of the BJP. Interestingly, the SP’s Ruksana Iqbal ended up fifth, even behind the BSP’s Azma Tashkeel.
In the Sikandra Rao Nagar Palika Parishad in Hathras district, Mohammed Musheer of the AIMIM won the chairperson post by 2,879 votes, defeating the BJP’s Pankaj Kumar Gupta. The SP’s Fanus Begum finished third.
In Kanpur’s Ghatampur Nagar Palika Parishad, the AIMIM’s Ghazala Tabassum won the chairperson post, narrowly beating Chandrakanti of the SP.
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In the Thiriya Nizawat Kha Nagar Panchayat election in Bareilly district, the AIMIM’s Imran Ali Khan won the chairperson post, again with a narrow margin, over Independent candidate Shamshula Nisha. The candidate of the SP’s ally RLD, Kismat Ali, contested the seat, and finished fourth, behind the BSP’s Naushad Ali Khan.
In the Kunderki Nagar Panchayat seat in Moradabad district, the AIMIM’s Zeenat emerged as chairperson, leaving the Aam Aadmi Party’s Naseema behind by 2,000-odd votes. The SP’s Naseema Khatoon stood sixth, with just 577 votes.
Interestingly, the Kunderki Assembly seat is held by the SP’s Ziaur Rahman Barq – the grandson of senior SP MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq, who had announced that he would not support the party’s candidate for Sambhal Municipal Council chairperson and instead back Independent candidate Farhana Saifi.
The biggest boost for the AIMIM came in Meerut. While the BJP’s Harikant Ahluwalia won the mayor post with 2.35 lakh votes (41% of the total), the AIMIM’s Anas got 1.28 lakh votes (22.37%). This was 13,000 votes more than SP candidate Seema Pradhan, who is the wife of SP MLA Atul Pradhan from Sardhana in Meerut.
There was a tussle for the Meerut mayor’s seat between the SP and RLD, which eventually compromised and let the SP contest. In retrospect, the SP appears to have erred in fielding a non-Muslim candidate for the Meerut corporation post, with Muslims comprising a major chunk of the electorate there.
As per the AIMIM, its candidates also won in 83 wards (as corporators and councillors) in the urban local body polls.
While the party contested 10 of the 17 mayor seats, it fielded 52 Nagar Palika Parishad chairperson candidates, 63 Nagar Panchayat chairperson candidates, and 653 candidates for ward and parishad member posts.
The AIMIM’s performance is noteworthy at a time when all parties, including the BJP, are vying for the Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh. The SP can no longer lay sole claim to the community’s vote as many see it as not forceful on issues related to the community. In fact, since last year’s Assembly polls, where the BSP was reduced to 1 seat, Mayawati has been the most vocal on Muslim issues in a bid to woo back the community that also voted for it.
The BSP president has said her “social engineering” for the future polls will include Muslims and Dalits. In the 2022 polls, it had accommodated a lot of Brahmin candidates, but while its seats plummeted, its vote share remained a respectable 12.88% across the state.
With the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in mind, the BJP has gone all out to maximise its reach by wooing the Pasmanda or backward Muslims. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself announced this, the BJP has been holding conventions for Pasmanda Muslims, and recently the NDA got its first Muslim MLA in the current Assembly when a Pasmanda Muslim won in a bypoll.
In the 2022 Assembly elections, the AIMIM had formed a “third front” with the Jan Adhikar Party led by former UP Cabinet minister Babu Singh Kushwaha and the Bhartiya Mukti Morcha headed by Waman Meshram. The “third front” was named the Bhagidari Parivartan Morcha.
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After the good news from the urban local body polls, AIMIM general secretary and spokesperson Pawan Rao Ambedkar said “the party has and will represent Muslims and Dalits, who face the maximum hardship in society”. “No party stands with Muslims and Dalits when they face atrocities. We have done so and will continue doing it. And people will eventually see it, and it will convert to votes in future polls,” said Ambedkar.
He said the party is looking at contesting 10-15 seats in the Lok Sabha polls next year. “We will hold discussions and decide which these 15 seats will be. We will contest them with all our might,” he said.
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Asked if the party will ally with another party, Ambedkar said: “The Bhagidari Parivartan Morcha is still intact. Our doors are still open for an alliance with the BSP, and we hope to get a positive response from them in the future.”